Sentencing Snapshot 236: Sentencing Trends for Armed Robbery in the Higher Courts of Victoria 2014-15 to 2018-19

Date of Publication

Sentencing Snapshot no. 236 describes sentencing outcomes for the offence of armed robbery in the County and Supreme Courts of Victoria from 2014-15 to 2018-19.

This is the most recent Snapshot for this offence.

You can also access statistics for armed robbery on SACStat.

Authored and published by the Sentencing Advisory Council
© State of Victoria, Sentencing Advisory Council, 2020

Snapshot 236: Armed Robbery

Introduction

This Sentencing Snapshot describes sentencing outcomes[1] for the offence of armed robbery in the County and Supreme Courts of Victoria (the higher courts) from 2014-15 to 2018-19.[2] Adjustments made by the Court of Appeal to sentence or conviction as at June 2019 have been incorporated into the data in this Snapshot.[3]

Detailed data on armed robbery and other offences is available on Sentencing Advisory Council Statistics Online (SACStat).

A person who uses or threatens to use force in order to steal and at the time has with them a firearm, imitation firearm, offensive weapon, explosive or imitation explosive is guilty of armed robbery. Armed robbery[4] is an indictable offence that carries a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 3,000 penalty units.[5] Indictable offences are more serious offences triable before a judge and jury in the County or Supreme Court.

This Snapshot focuses on cases where armed robbery was the principal offence, that is, cases where armed robbery was the offence that received the most severe sentence.[6]

Armed robbery was the principal offence in 10.0% of cases sentenced in the higher courts between 2014-15 and 2018-19.

People sentenced

From 2014-15 to 2018-19, 888 people were sentenced in the higher courts for a principal offence of armed robbery.

Figure 1 shows the number of people sentenced for the principal offence of armed robbery by financial year. There were 142 people sentenced for this offence in 2018-19, down by 50 people from the previous year. This was the lowest number of people sentenced in the five years. The number of people sentenced was highest in 2014-15 (216 people).

Figure 1: The number of people sentenced for armed robbery by financial year

Financial year Total
2014-15 216
2015-16 188
2016-17 150
2017-18 192
2018-19 142
Total 888

Sentence types and trends

Figure 2 shows the proportion of people who received an immediate custodial sentence and non-custodial sentence for the principal offence of armed robbery. An immediate custodial sentence involves at least some element of immediate imprisonment or detention.[7] Over the five-year period, 83.1% of people were given an immediate custodial sentence, with the highest proportion occurring in 2016-17 (90.7%) and the lowest in 2015-16 (74.5%). The proportion of people who received an immediate custodial sentence in 2018-19 was 88.0%, up by 1.5% from the previous year.

Figure 2: The percentage of people who received an immediate custodial sentence and non-custodial sentence for armed robbery by financial year

Financial year Number of immediate custodial sentences People sentenced Percentage of immediate custodial sentences Percentage of non-custodial sentence
2014-15 171 216 79.2% 20.8%
2015-16 140 188 74.5% 25.5%
2016-17 136 150 90.7% 9.3%
2017-18 166 192 86.5% 13.5%
2018-19 125 142 88.0% 12.0%
Total 738 888 83.1% 16.9%

Table 1 shows the number of people sentenced for the principal offence of armed robbery from 2014-15 to 2018-19 by the most serious type of sentence imposed.[8] The availability of different sentence types has changed over time. Most notably, wholly and partially suspended sentences have now been abolished.[9] Changes to community correction orders have also influenced the sentencing trends over the five years covered by this Snapshot.[10]

Over the five-year period, the majority of people sentenced for armed robbery received a principal sentence of imprisonment (76.4% or 678 of 888 people). The principal sentence is the sentence imposed for the charge that is the principal offence. The proportion of imprisonment sentences increased over this period, from 74.1% in 2014-15 to 83.8% in 2018-19. Comparatively, the use of community correction orders (without imprisonment) almost halved, decreasing from 20.4% in 2014-15 to 11.3% in 2018-19.

Table 1: The number and percentage of people sentenced for armed robbery by most serious principal sentence type and financial year

Sentence type 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 Total
Imprisonment 160 (74.1%) 127 (67.6%) 125 (83.3%) 147 (76.6%) 119 (83.8%) 678 (76.4%)
Community correction order 44 (20.4%) 43 (22.9%) 13 (8.7%) 26 (13.5%) 16 (11.3%) 142 (16.0%)
Youth justice centre order 11 (5.1%) 13 (6.9%) 11 (7.3%) 19 (9.9%) 6 (4.2%) 60 (6.8%)
Other 1 (0.5%) 5 (2.7%) 1 (0.7%) 0 (0.0%) 1 (0.7%) 8 (0.9%)
Total people sentenced 216 188 150 192 142 888

Principal and total effective sentences

The principal sentence describes sentences for the offence at a charge level (as described in the previous section). The total effective sentence describes sentences at a case level.

The total effective sentence in a case with a single charge is the principal sentence. The total effective sentence in a case with multiple charges is the sentence that results from the court ordering the individual sentences for each charge to be served concurrently (at the same time) or wholly or partially cumulatively (one after the other).

Where a case involves multiple charges, the total effective sentence imposed on a person is sometimes longer than the principal sentence. Principal sentences for armed robbery must be considered in this broader context.

The following sections analyse the use of imprisonment for the offence of armed robbery from 2014-15 to 2018-19.

Principal sentence of imprisonment

Table 2 shows that a total of 678 people received a principal sentence of imprisonment for armed robbery. Of these, 592 people received a non-aggregate term of imprisonment and 86 people received an aggregate term. There were 205 people who received a community correction order in addition to their term of imprisonment.

Table 2: The number and percentage of people sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery by sentence type and financial year

Type of imprisonment sentence 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 Total
Imprisonment 101 (63.1%) 54 (42.5%) 88 (70.4%) 112 (76.2%) 84 (70.6%) 439 (64.7%)
Imprisonment and community correction order (combined) 38 (23.8%) 53 (41.7%) 21 (16.8%) 21 (14.3%) 19 (16.0%) 152 (22.4%)
Imprisonment and community correction order and fine (combined) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 1 (0.8%) 1 (0.1%)
Total non-aggregate imprisonment 139 (86.9%) 107 (84.3%) 109 (87.2%) 133 (90.5%) 104 (87.4%) 592 (87.3%)
Aggregate imprisonment 7 (4.4%) 7 (5.5%) 9 (7.2%) 6 (4.1%) 5 (4.2%) 34 (5.0%)
Aggregate imprisonment and community correction order (combined) 14 (8.8%) 13 (10.2%) 7 (5.6%) 8 (5.4%) 10 (8.4%) 52 (7.7%)
Total aggregate imprisonment 21 (13.1%) 20 (15.7%) 16 (12.8%) 14 (9.5%) 15 (12.6%) 86 (12.7%)
Total people sentenced to imprisonment 160 127 125 147 119 678

Figure 3 shows the length of imprisonment for the 592 people who received a non-aggregate term.[11] Imprisonment terms ranged from 1 month (combined with a community correction order) to 8 years and 6 months, while the median length of imprisonment was 3 years (meaning that half of the imprisonment terms were below 3 years and half were above).

The most common range of imprisonment term lengths was 3 to less than 4 years (167 people).

Figure 3: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery by length of imprisonment term, 2014-15 to 2018-19

Imprisonment length Number of people
Less than 1 year 95
1 to less than 2 years 98
2 to less than 3 years 102
3 to less than 4 years 167
4 to less than 5 years 78
5 to less than 6 years 30
6 to less than 7 years 13
7 to less than 8 years 2
8 to less than 9 years 7
People sentenced 592

As shown in Figure 4, the average length of imprisonment increased in the five years to 2018-19, from 2 years and 4 months in 2014-15 to 2 years and 9 months in 2018-19, and peaked at 3 years and 1 month in 2016-17 and 2017-18. Overall, the average length of imprisonment for armed robbery was 2 years and 8 months.

Figure 4: The average length of imprisonment imposed on people sentenced for armed robbery by financial year

Financial year Number of people Average length of imprisonment term
2014-15 139 2 years and 4 months
2015-16 107 1 year and 11 months
2016-17 109 3 years and 1 month
2017-18 133 3 years and 1 month
2018-19 104 2 years and 9 months
Total 592 2 years and 8 months

Other offences finalised at the same hearing

Sometimes people prosecuted for armed robbery face multiple charges, which are finalised at the same hearing. This section looks at the range of offences that offenders were sentenced for alongside the principal offence of armed robbery. The section includes data on all people sentenced for a principal offence of armed robbery, not just those who received imprisonment.

Figure 5 shows the number of people sentenced for the principal offence of armed robbery by the total number of sentenced offences per person. The number of sentenced offences per person ranged from 1 to 115, while the median was 3 offences. There were 230 people (25.9%) sentenced for the single offence of armed robbery. The average number of offences per person was 4.16.

Figure 5: The number of people sentenced for the principal offence of armed robbery by the number of sentenced offences per person, 2014-15 to 2018-19

Number of offences Number of people
1 230
2 210
3 121
4 70
5-9 183
10-19 62
20-49 11
50-99 0
100+ 1
Total 888

Table 3 shows the 10 most common offences, by number and percentage, for people sentenced for armed robbery. The last column sets out the average number of offences sentenced per person. For example, 235 of the total 888 people (26.5%) also received sentences for theft. On average, they were sentenced for 2.23 counts of theft.

Table 3: The number and percentage of people sentenced for the principal offence of armed robbery by the most common offences that were sentenced and the average number of those offences that were sentenced, 2014-15 to 2018-19

Offence Number of cases Percentage of cases Average number of proven offences per case
1. Armed robbery 888 100.0% 1.48
2. Theft 235 26.5% 2.23
3. Commit indictable offence while on bail 133 15.0% 1.18
4. Possess a drug of dependence 87 9.8% 1.29
5. Attempted armed robbery 86 9.7% 1.20
6. Handling stolen goods 49 5.5% 1.33
7. Obtaining property by deception 48 5.4% 2.65
8. Robbery 44 5.0% 1.36
9. Burglary 42 4.7% 1.86
10. Aggravated burglary 42 4.7% 1.29
People sentenced 888 100.0% 4.16

Total effective imprisonment terms

Figure 6 shows the number of people sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery by length of total effective imprisonment term. The total effective imprisonment terms ranged from 1 month (combined with a community correction order) to 11 years, while the median total effective imprisonment term was 3 years and 1 month (meaning that half of the total effective imprisonment terms were below 3 years and 1 month and half were above).

The most common total effective imprisonment term was 3 to less than 4 years (125 people).

Figure 6: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery by length of total effective imprisonment term, 2014-15 to 2018-19

Total effective imprisonment length Number of people
Less than 1 year 118
1 to less than 2 years 107
2 to less than 3 years 75
3 to less than 4 years 125
4 to less than 5 years 99
5 to less than 6 years 80
6 to less than 7 years 33
7 to less than 8 years 26
8 to less than 9 years 7
9 to less than 10 years 3
10 to less than 11 years 2
11 to less than 12 years 3
People sentenced 678

Non-parole period

If a person is sentenced to a term of immediate imprisonment of less than 1 year, the court cannot impose a non-parole period. For terms between 1 year and less than 2 years, the court has the discretion to fix a non-parole period. For terms of imprisonment of 2 years or more, the court must impose a non-parole period in most circumstances. If the court fixes a non-parole period, the person must serve that period before becoming eligible for parole. If the court does not set a non-parole period, the person must serve the entirety of their imprisonment term in custody.

Of the 678 people who were sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery, 118 were not eligible to have a non-parole period imposed because their total effective sentence was less than one year. Of the 560 people who were eligible to have a non-parole period fixed, 457 (81.6%) were given a non-parole period.

Figure 7 shows the number of people sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery by length of non-parole period. Non-parole periods ranged from 4 months to 8 years and 6 months, while the median non-parole period was 2 years and 4 months (meaning that half of the non-parole periods were below 2 years and 4 months and half were above).

The most common non-parole period imposed was 2 to less than 3 years (156 people); however, the most common outcome was that no non-parole period was imposed (221 people).[12]

Note that it was not possible to determine the length of the non-parole period for 12 people.[13]

Figure 7: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery by length of non-parole period, 2014-15 to 2018-19

Non-parole period Number of people
Less than 1 year 12
1 to less than 2 years 115
2 to less than 3 years 156
3 to less than 4 years 92
4 to less than 5 years 45
5 to less than 6 years 15
6 to less than 7 years 3
7 to less than 8 years 5
8 to less than 9 years 2
No non-parole period 221
Unascertainable 12
Total people 678

Total effective sentences of imprisonment and non-parole periods

Figure 8 represents the 445 people who were sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery and for whom the non-parole period could be determined. Figure 8 compares the average length of total effective sentences with the average length of non-parole periods for these people by financial year.[14]

From 2014-15 to 2018-19, the average length of total effective sentences ranged from 3 years and 11 months in 2014-15 to 4 years and 6 months in 2017-18. Over the same period, the average length of non-parole periods ranged from 2 years and 4 months in 2014-15 to 2 years and 9 months in 2017-18. Both total effective sentences and non-parole periods have increased slightly over time.

Figure 8: The average total effective sentence length and average non-parole period for people sentenced to imprisonment with a non-parole period for armed robbery by financial year

Financial year Average total effective sentence length Average non-parole period
2014-15 3 years and 11 months 2 years and 4 months
2015-16 4 years and 1 month 2 years and 6 months
2016-17 4 years and 4 months 2 years and 8 months
2017-18 4 years and 6 months 2 years and 9 months
2018-19 4 years and 5 months 2 years and 8 months

Further data on total effective sentences of imprisonment and corresponding non-parole periods for armed robbery is available on SACStat. Data on the length of non-imprisonment sentence types, such as community correction orders, for armed robbery is also available on SACStat.

Summary

From 2014-15 to 2018-19, 888 people were sentenced for the principal offence of armed robbery in the higher courts. Of these people, 678 (76.4%) were given a principal sentence of imprisonment.

People with a principal offence of armed robbery were sometimes sentenced for other offences. The number and range of those offences help explain why imprisonment sentence lengths were longer for the total effective sentence than for the principal sentence. The median total effective imprisonment length was 3 years and 1 month, while the median principal imprisonment length was 3 years.

Total effective imprisonment lengths ranged from 1 month (combined with a community correction order) to 11 years, and non-parole periods (where imposed) ranged from 4 months to 8 years and 6 months.

Endnotes

1. In addition to sentencing outcomes, this series of reports includes custodial and non-custodial supervision orders imposed under Part 5 of the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to Be Tried) Act 1997 (Vic) as sentencing orders and in the count of people sentenced. These orders are not sentencing orders, as they are imposed in cases in which the accused is found to be unfit to stand trial or not guilty because of mental impairment. However, they are included in this report as they are an important form of disposition of criminal charges.

This Sentencing Snapshot is an update of Sentencing Snapshot no. 212, which describes sentencing trends for armed robbery between 2012-13 and 2016-17.

2. Data on first-instance sentencing outcomes in this Snapshot was obtained from the Strategic Analysis and Review Team at Court Services Victoria. Data on appeal outcomes was collected by the Sentencing Advisory Council from the Australasian Legal Information Institute, and was also provided by the Victorian Court of Appeal. The Sentencing Advisory Council regularly undertakes extensive quality control measures for current and historical data. While every effort is made to ensure that the data analysed in this report is accurate, the data is subject to revision.

3. In October 2017, the High Court delivered its judgment in Director of Public Prosecutions v Dalgliesh (A Pseudonym) [2017] HCA 41, in which it made two important findings about sentencing in Victoria. First, Victorian courts had been giving too much weight to current sentencing practices, which is just one of the factors courts are required to take into account when imposing a sentence. Second, where current sentencing practices are shown to be in error, the courts should change their practices immediately, not incrementally.

Although the High Court’s decision only occurred halfway during the reference period of this Snapshot, it may result in considerable changes to sentencing patterns for cases sentenced after October 2017.

4. Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 75A.

5. The value of a penalty unit changes each year and can be found in the Victorian Government Gazette and on the Victorian Legislation website.

6. If a person is sentenced for a case with a single charge, the offence for that charge is the principal offence. If a person is sentenced for more than one charge in a single case, the principal offence is the offence for the charge that attracted the most serious sentence according to the sentencing hierarchy.

7. For the principal offence of armed robbery, ‘immediate custodial sentence’ includes imprisonment, imprisonment combined with a community correction order, imprisonment combined with a community correction order and fine, aggregate imprisonment, aggregate imprisonment combined with a community correction order, a youth justice centre order and an aggregate youth justice centre order.

8. For example, if the principal offence has a sentence that includes imprisonment combined with a community correction order, imprisonment is the most serious sentence type.

9. Suspended sentences have been abolished in the higher courts for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2013 and in the Magistrates’ Court for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014.

10. For example, initially the maximum term of imprisonment that could be combined with a community correction order was set at 3 months, but it was increased to 2 years in September 2014 and reduced to 1 year in March 2017.

11. Data presented in this section does not include imprisonment lengths for people who received an aggregate sentence of imprisonment. Figures 3 and 4 only report on non-aggregate sentences of imprisonment for the principal offence of armed robbery.

12. The 221 people sentenced to imprisonment with no non-parole period consisted of 118 people who were not eligible to have a non-parole period imposed and 103 people who were eligible but were not given a non-parole period with their sentence.

13. Twelve people were given a non-parole period that related to more than one case. It is not possible to separately determine the length of the non-parole periods that relate to each individual case.

14. Figure 8 only includes cases where the total effective sentence is an imprisonment term and a non-parole period is applied. This means cases with imprisonment combined with a community correction order (which do not receive a non-parole period) are excluded from Figure 8.

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